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McAfee CEO Samenuk retires in wake of options probe

The investigation into stock option grants is complete and company president Kevin Weiss has been fired, as well.

An internal investigation into stock-options grants at McAfee Inc. has resulted in the resignation of the company's CEO, George Samenuk, and the firing of Kevin Weiss, the company's president. Dale Fuller, a member of the McAfee board, has been named interim CEO and president.

Samenuk, who had been with McAfee since January 2001, said in a statement that he was retiring in the "best interests of the company, its shareholders and employees. I regret that some of the stock option problems identified by the special committee occurred on my watch."

The departures of Samenuk and Weiss come at the conclusion of an investigation by a special committee of the company's board of directors into the way that certain stock options were granted in the last 10 years. The committee found that McAfee will need to restate some of its historical financial results, which will result in a charge of at least $100 million, the company said.

The loss of Samenuk is a major blow for McAfee, which is battling not just its traditional security rivals, such as Symantec Corp. and Trend Micro Inc., but also Microsoft Corp., whose own antivirus and other security offerings are beginning to hit the market. Samenuk was immensely popular with McAfee employees and had become a highly visible figure in the security industry. He took over the company at a time when it was reeling from a previous financial scandal involving the way that McAfee, then known as Network Associates, handled how it recognized revenue from sales through its channel partners.

That situation resulted in not only lawsuits from resellers and shareholders, but also indictments of several former company executives and investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice. Samenuk came in vowing to focus on the needs of the company's customers and led a transformation of the company that saw it radically change its product portfolio through the acquisitions of intrusion prevention vendors IntruVert Networks and Entercept Security Technologies.

Recently, Samenuk had joined Symantec in a public fight against what the companies see as unfair moves by Microsoft to prevent products from outside vendors from accessing the kernel in Windows Vista. Samenuk went so far as to take out a full-page ad in a newspaper last week decrying Microsoft's actions.

Fuller, an outside director on McAfee's board since January, is an experienced executive with experience at Apple Computer Inc. and NEC. He most recently served as president and CEO of Borland Software Corp. In a conference call Wednesday morning, Fuller said it was too early to say whether he would be a candidate for the permanent CEO job.

Weiss, a five-year McAfee veteran, had come up through the company's sales organization and took over the president's job when longtime executive Gene Hodges left to join Websense Inc. in January. In the conference call, Fuller declined to elaborate on the resons for Weiss' termination, but pointed out that Weiss was with the company for a substantial portion of the time period on which the options investigation focused.

The board's investigation is complete, Fuller said, and the full report will be made public in the near future once McAfee submits it to the SEC.

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